Book Review: Light from Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker

From the Back Cover:

When Cohen Marah steps over his father’s body in the basement embalming room of the family’s funeral home, he has no idea that he is stepping into a labyrinth of memory.

Over the next week, Cohen’s childhood comes back in living color. The dramatic events that led to his parents’ separation. The accident Cohen witnessed and the traumatic images he couldn’t unsee. And the two children in the forest who became his friends – and enlisted him in a dark and dangerous undertaking. As the lines blur between what was real and what was imaginary, Cohen is faced with the question he’s been avoiding: 

Is he responsible for his father’s death?

Master story weaver Shawn Smucker relays a tale both eerie and enchanting, one that will have you questioning reality and reaching out for what is true, good and genuine. 

My Thoughts:

This was the first book I’ve read by Shawn Smucker. I’ve heard glowing reviews about his other three books and two of them are sitting in my TBR pile, but somehow the “gotta read” books kept shoving them aside. But not anymore. 

Light from Distant Stars is the kind of book one can’t write or even talk about immediately. Time has to pass and thoughts need to ruminate. Shawn weaves unlikely conflict with complex characters and adds his special dash of mysterious suspense all while leaving the reader to wonder with his blunt yet beautiful prose. His writing is Frank Peretti-esque but lite; spinning suspense and otherworldly themes through the main conflict of everyday human relationships. 

I found myself in the world of Cohen and his struggles and had my life permitted I wouldn’t have come up for air until the last page. Yet through the journey, I found his experience of confession troubling for me to read. It jarred me. Confession and absolution of sin is not something I believe a human priest can offer me. Yet, the habit of remembering everything is theological came back to me and I realized I understood Cohen’s need for confession better than I thought.

It was like a man going to see a counselor. His need drives him to keep pursuing the dark corners of his mind and heart and while it’s painful, he keeps coming back. This realization of his past challenges his view of God and if we’re honest, that’s what it’s all about, anyway. I understand that very well. 

Allow yourself to get lost in the characters and the story and begin to see the reason each does what they do. It will challenge you and just might help you see with new eyes.

Themes:

father-son relationships, trauma, childhood memories, dysfunctional families, suspense, church experiences

Reservations:

None.

Recommendations:

If you’re looking for a book worth reading by a gifted writer with a flair for the otherworldly yet somehow more real reality, this is it.

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